Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Vigil for Troy Davis


We gathered in the plaza across the Embarcadero from San Francisco’s Ferry Building, and I did not know the names of all the individuals and groups that organized the vigil for Troy Davis –Amnesty International and others.

People recalled Troy Davis, and people spoke against the existence of a death penality. 

As the time advanced closer to the time when Troy Davis was scheduled to be executed in Georgia, a man whose name I should know, as he often joins Code Pink in their political actions, sang, “We Shall Overcome,” but it came too unexpected, or people were too troubled and depressed to take up the song and interweave their arms as should happen when that song is sung.  Then, with what always brings strength, an African-American woman with a good strong voice sang that Jesus had a place for all, and it was what was needed, and is always needed, a spiritual sung by a bright strong voice. In her there was no sense of despair or defeat.

As the time for Georgia’s murder of Troy Davis drew closer, the group, which seemed too small for the enormity of what was about to happen, drawn tight together, for comfort, in front of speakers and singers, joined hands in a circle that expanded like the wide ring expanding from a stone dropped in water until the circle was very large on Justin Herman Plaza, and we seemed many more than we had seemed before.  From my side of the circle I could see the clock on the Ferry Building, and dreaded that I could see the minutes pass and knew that at 7 o’clock in Georgia, and at 4 o’clock by this clock, Troy Davis would be put to death.  

 Songs and speeches over, we all waited and watched, solemn and sad.  Leslie counted 107 of us.  I added that there were also 2 dogs and 2 babies.  The clock struck 4.  Seconds later the siren of a fire engine or ambulance wailed as if  presaging grief.   About 10 or 15 minutes later, the leaders picked up a megaphone, and the circle closed in toward him as he announced that there had been a stay.  I said to those beside me, “But I don’t believe in miracles.” 

 Still waiting for news, listening to the streaming of news from Democracy Now as someone put a radio against the mouth of the megaphone, we heard that the stay might be of only a few minutes, and so we all were frozen in place, or interwove, pacing out our anxiety, as Amy Goodman was reporting from the prison, “We’re trying to verify.”  

“I still don’t believe in miracles,” I said, but someone said, if it's not a miracle, at least it represents hope, and then it was reported that the U.S. Supreme Court had granted a stay of at least 7 days for reconsideration of the case.  People still hung about, afraid to believe the good news was true.  

 Gradually the mood lightened somewhat, but we still waited for any snippets of fact.   Martha and I decided we could move over to a spot that was out of the way, behind the immense Plaza  Fountain, and we did tai chi where the water pouring down the outer edge of the fountain and the chattering of San Francisco's parrots in the nearby trees obscured all other sounds, and provided a haven of sorts.

I had a ticket to the San Francisco Symphony, and there was no reason not to go now.  Michael Tilson Thomas conducted Mahler’s Third Symphony.  A great box of musical bonbons, or a chest of jewels, however one might try to sum up in adequate words how Mahler tried every possible mood and combination of instruments.  Toward the end, the mezzo-soprano, Katarina Karneus, was singing a verse by Friedrich Nietsche,

  Lust tiefer noch als Herzeleid!
       (Joy deeper still than heart’s sorrow!)      
   Weh spricht  Vergeh!
       (Pain says:  Vanish!)
   Doch alle Lust will Ewigkeit!
       (Yet all joy aspires to eternity…”
The wide necklace of the girls’ chorus, in white blouses and bright red vests, rose as the black-garbed adult chorus rose behind them, for the final choral work, introduced by bells -- and, appropriately, and with a “klang” in the opening lines,

Es sungen drei Engel einen sussen Gesang
          (Three angels sang a sweet song.)
 Mit Freuden es selig im Himmel klang…
           (It resounded throughout heaven…)

At the end the music broke out of exclamation and into a long serenity that became something you might call an even deeper serenity, long and bountiful, that enclosed audience and all, and finally the sun was luminous on a snow-capped mountain peak – and at the end the audience made clear that they had followed the music to that same peak.
I went home and turned on the news and found that Troy Davis had been executed at 11:08, Georgia time, and was sorry to have it confirmed that there are no miracles.


 I dealt with grief about widespread inhumanity in the way that is available to me by staying up most of the night to make collage I call “Become Human.  Ban Capital Punishment," knowing this is what the Davis family will fight for now.

In the morning, thanks to Linda Beaumont’s having placed his image in glass, looking out and looking in from my window was that compassionate human who is always there -- Martin Luther King, forever a witness of how we live.  (For a slide show with more images, click on the title of this entry above.)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Israel and the Palestinians

If the rest of the earth were more supportive and show better leadership and less indifference about the issue, the situation should have changed since Ben Gurion said, "Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it's true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been antisemitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations' time, but for the moment there is no chance. So, it's simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army. Our whole policy is there. Otherwise the Arabs will wipe us out.
          o As quoted in The Jewish Paradox : A Personal Memoir (1978) by Nahum Goldmann, as translated by Steve Cox, p. 99 ISBN 0-448-15166-9

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Letter to the New York Times

I am sure that the New York Times will not publish my Letter to the Editor in response to today's article by Bill Keller (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/06/us/sept-11-reckoning/keller.html?pagewanted=all) where he describes his disillusionment with his original enthusiastic support of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, etc.
My letter:   
Re:  “My Unfinished 9/11 Business” by Bill Keller
For all of us not in the information-glutted NYC to DC beltway, yet were informed irrefutably by our internal bullshit detectors that government lies and news media hype were going to lead us into the tragedy of the last ten years, Mr. Keller owes us more than the record of his change of mind.  We suffered the knowledge of the mass bloodshed even before it began, then lived, maddened, waiting for people like him to wake up.  Anticipate your next insular arrogance.  Lead a declaration by all news media – especially the supposed rubberstamp of truth, the NYT – that you will always anticipate each lying excuse for war.  And learn what journalism is, for example, by watching the daily hour of Amy Goodman’s DEMOCRACY NOW (www.democracynow.org).  But I know these remarks will be too raw for the “polite” club that thrives on self-delusion.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Cannabis Comes Out

In a large area in downtown Oakland, including City Hall and the Police Station, the massive Cannabis & Hemp Expo is taking place on 3 and 4 September 2011.